COLUMBIA, Mo. — First openly trans woman to be executed in the US seeks clemency from the governor of Missouri, citing mental health issues.
Attorneys for Amber McLaughlin, now 49, asked Republican Governor Mike Parson to pardon her on Monday.
McLaughlin was found guilty of murdering 45-year-old Beverly Guenther on November 20, 2003. Guenther, St. Louis County, raped and stabbed to death.
According to the Anti-Execution Death Penalty Information Center, there is no clear case of previously executed transgender prisoners in the United States.
Federal public defender Larry Komp said: “It’s wrong to execute anyone, no matter what, but I hope this is the first time that hasn’t happened.” “Despite the potential for people to react with hatred, Amber showed great courage by embracing who she is as a trans woman, so I admire her display of courage.”
McLaughlin’s lawyers cited his traumatic childhood and mental health issues that the jury had never heard of in his petition for pardon. According to the letter to Parson, a stepparent smeared feces on her face as a toddler and her stepfather abused her. He tried to kill himself multiple times, both as a child and as an adult.
Parson spokesperson Kelli Jones said the Governor’s Office is reviewing the clemency request.
“These are not decisions the Governor would take lightly,” Jones said in an email.
Komp said McLaughlin’s lawyers are scheduled to meet with Parson on Tuesday.
A judge sentenced McLaughlin to death, as a jury could not decide on death or life imprisonment without parole.
Louis, ordered a new criminal trial to be held in 2016, citing concerns about the effectiveness of McLaughlin’s trial attorneys and erroneous jury instructions. But in 2021, a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty.
McLaughlin’s lawyers also listed the jury’s indecision and McLaughlin’s remorse to spare Parson’s life.
State Penitentiary Department spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said in an email that Missouri had only executed one woman before.
McLaughlin’s lawyers said he had previously shared a room with another trans woman, but was now living in solitary confinement until the scheduled execution date.
Pojmann said 9% of the Missouri prison population are women, and all death row inmates are incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center.
“It’s extremely unusual for a woman to commit a deadly crime, such as a brutal murder, and even more unusual for a woman to rape and kill a woman, as with McLaughlin,” Pojmann said.
Missouri executed two people this year. A St. John’s Wort that he blames for the death of his younger brother. Kevin Johnson, 37, convicted of ambushing and killing a Louis area police officer, was executed last month. Carmen Deck died of an injection in May for killing James and Zelma Long during a robbery at their home in De Soto, Missouri, in 1996.